I have a ritual each morning.
My alarm goes off at stupid o’clock, and I get up immediately before my body understands what’s hit it. If I leave it for more than two minutes, my body starts an argument with my head that it always has. The body wanting to stay warm, especially as it listens to the howling wind or pouring rain. So I trick the body before it’s even fully awake. I force it out of bed, still wobbly and bumping into the wardrobe or the drawers.
I head to the bathroom where my running gear is already waiting – avoiding another barrier that my body likes to give me – the hassle factor of searching for kit is taken out of the equation. I argue again with my body at this point, the warmth of the dressing gown tussles with the chill of getting changed. 99% of the time the head wins. 1% of the time I argue for five more minutes, which is just enough time for my body to give me no amount of reasons why we can do it later, I then spend the next 10 hours berating myself for giving in.
Once I’m dressed, that’s it. There’s no going back. I clip on the headtorch, lace up the trainers, and I’m across the threshold. Whatever happens now, I have to run. I wear shorts even in this weather because then I’m too cold to stop for very long. It’s all a game, but one that my mind, and, reluctantly, my body, is pleased I keep winning.
My admiration goes to those that can knock out a run at any time of the day, at any time of the year. There’s no doubt that I can feel pangs of jealousy on the spring days as I drive pass runners on their afternoon session. But in the winter, when everything seems to pull you back to the warmth of the house, it takes so much effort for me to galvanise myself for a run. Who would even know that I love running? And this from someone who promotes it.
But running in the winter. In a pandemic. It’s made the body and mind argue more than usual.
We’ve had a few emails here at the ShedQuarters from people struggling for motivation, they’ve lost their mojo. Or those, who just can’t find the time to fit in the run amongst the home-schooling, home-working and the stresses of everyday pandemia.
It’s truly tough out there. Motivation is not always easy to find under the sofa, or from the duvet. Sometimes the love of running just isn’t enough.
There is an argument for listening to your body, my virtual Yoga teacher, is forever telling me that I should do so, and I get that when it comes to aches and pains. But the body can also trick you.
We have a 16-year-old teenager at home, whose life has been ripped up by Covid-19. It’s easy to say that teenagers are prone to exaggeration, self-centredness and lack of backbone or enthusiasm, and I realise that our daughter and her friends are fortunate to have their physical health. But their mental health, that’s a whole other ball game.
This is a group of kids who’s schooling has been undermined, who’s chance to blossom and dream has been curtailed. She was set for her first festival, her first prom, her first everything that teenage life promises. Slowly throughout the year, we’ve watched her withdraw. First lockdown we could still get her to come out for a run with us. Almost a year on, and we’ve been struggling to get her out of her bedroom.
Her body didn’t want to move; her body had given up. And her mind, well, it hasn’t been fed enough of the feel-good stuff to help it put up a fight.
The body was winning.
No amount of consequences, nagging, arguments or rewards coming from your parents can fight the logic of a brain that’s beaten. Switch off the wifi? She’ll use 4G. Take away her phone? It’s her one lifeline to her friends.
So instead we bargained just one thing with her. Forget the running; forget the workouts. Just get outside for 15 minutes a day. Walk. Doesn’t matter how far. But see the sky. Hear the birds. Watch the tiny glimmers of spring as they start to unfold.
She’s done this pretty much every day for two weeks now. The other day we even got worried as she was gone for almost an hour. But the magic of moving forward is starting to work for her again. It’ll be a bumpy ride for her and her compatriots. Trying to re-invent what teenage life looks like with ongoing restrictions and lockdowns and circuit-breakers that are likely to make up our new normal. But any time we’re moving forward, we’ve all got a better chance of getting through.
I know many of us have struggled with running and exercising in this lockdown, beating ourselves up along the way. But moving forward is the goal. Moving forward with purpose, that’s the promised land.
I’ve listed below a few helpful articles I’ve read recently that go some way to explain why a walk is as good a way of exercising as any. Hopefully they prove that if you can’t face the lycra right now, you shouldn’t belittle the humble walk. Mountains have been climbed by walkers, promised lands have been discovered. It is still the most effective way of getting somewhere.
Sometimes the strength of putting one foot in front of the other is all we need to do and all we can do.
It’s why we accept walkers in our races. Any form of moving forward, under the power of your own steam, is fine by us.
Breath deep this week, there are small signs of spring coming.
Be kind to your mind and only listen to your body if it’s talking sense.
All the best,
Founder / Mind-Jedi / Waddler
P.S. Remember, if you can’t run, walk. Take the pressure off, you’re surviving a pandemic. This is huge. Stay safe. Aim to grow just one thing, because then you’ve changed the world and that can’t be taken away by anything.
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